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‘That moment’: Gallerist to compose psychedelic canon in Sierra Foothills

Brian Chambers is set to open his second gallery show — TOGETHERRR — this Friday at his new Grass Valley location for The Chambers Project at 627 E. Main St. A collection of artists that Chambers has gathered will be conducting a pair of live paintings during the opening.
Photo: Elias Funez

It was 1995.

Gallerist Brian Chambers was 16 and a sophomore at a Knoxville, Tennessee, high school visiting a friend in San Francisco when he saw something that would catalyze his future artistic endeavors. It was a poster with a cyclist’s silhouette imposed over an orange spiral-grid for a summit held in Santa Cruz two years before.

The summit celebrated the 50th anniversary of the creation of lysergic acid diethylamide — commonly known as LSD — a hallucinogenic drug first synthesized by a chemist Albert Hofmann.

The image “resonated,” Chambers said. He had just completed Hunter S. Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and learned of doctors Timothy Leary and Hofmann’s Bay Area ventures into psychedelia, and he offered his friend $1,000 for the piece.

Hofmann himself eventually signed the poster, which now hangs alongside sheets of acid art and original ink drawings of concert posters in the foyer of the gallerist’s home.

Artist Oliver Vernon stands in his Grass Valley workspace where he works on not only his paintings but driftwood sculptures as well. Vernon will be among a group of painters that will collaborate on a pair of pieces at The Chambers Project gallery opening Friday.
Photo: Elias Funez

One of six original prints of portraitist Annie Liebovitz’s take on Hunter S. Thompson sits on the upper floor of Chambers’ new building on East Main Street in Grass Valley, after being displayed for the gallery’s opening show.

Chambers, now 42, never got the chance to meet the gonzo journalist himself, but is friends with his wife.

Chambers commissioned not one, but two bronze casts that brought to life illustrator Ralph Steadman’s portrait of Thompson — his co-collaborator in capturing the American grotesque.

Chambers went to Steadman’s 80th birthday party five years ago, and said Steadman’s family members made a point of making the trip west for the gallery’s opening in November.

Although Chambers continues to amass a world-renown collection of psychedelic art from the 1960s onward since his first acquisition 27 years ago, the curator is deeply involved with the contemporary psychedelic experience.

Chambers is not only a patron of the arts, but a producer. As an enthusiast and friend, Chambers developed a niche for himself in the art world orchestrating psychedelic collaborations between extraordinary talents.

Brian Chambers’ home collection of art showcases early pieces from some of his favorite artists. Some of these artists will have their work displayed at The Chambers Project gallery, as well as work on a live collaborative piece.
Photo: Elias Funez

“People enjoy watching as a masterpiece comes to life in front of their face,” Chambers said. “My best friends happen to be the best in the world, and they’ve redefined what collaborative painting can be.”


That’s the inspiration for Chambers’ second show in his gallery’s home on East Main Street, set to debut to the public on Friday.

There, the Furtherrr Collective — made up of Mars-1, Oliver Vernon, Damon Soule, David Choong Lee and Nome Edonna — will collaborate on two separate canvasses in a spontaneous exploration of the metaphysical and the physical, the individual and the collective conscious.

According to Vernon, collaborating on canvas — live — is spontaneous, and therefore challenging.

The spontaneity of live painting invites the artist to surrender their ego, Vernon said. Doing so entails releasing preconceived notions about the self, their ideology and ways of expression, he explained.

Brian Chambers stands in a large industrial artists workshop, part of The Chambers Project gallery in Grass Valley.
Photo: Elias Funez

“There’s a balance of sensibilities,” Vernon said. “You have to be able to not get hung up and let go of expectations — letting go is therapeutic.”

Vernon said he benefits psychologically when he creates art with others because it challenges constrictive mindsets that catch individuals and communities in a loop.

“Western art is about individual ego,” Vernon said, adding that he laughs when someone asks which part of a collaborative piece he worked on. “Every day you’re on a new frontier and could have ‘that moment.’”

In the collaborative process, no pencil prefaces paint, Soule asserted, adding that experiential painting “lifts the curtain” for others to see the hundreds of pieces painted before artists determine that work for a designated canvas is complete.

Soule said he was once approached by a pirate-looking man who saw a pirate in an abstract portion of the canvas Soule was focused on.

“In that world between the representational and the nonrepresentational dimensions, this captures a still frame of the universe’s construction,” Soule said.

Brian Chambers has been busy getting his gallery, The Chambers Project, ready for his second show at his new Grass Valley location — TOGETHERRR — opening this Friday at 627 E. Main St.
Photo: Elias Funez

The “nonrepresentational” representations invite viewers to find themselves in the psychedelic pieces, Soule said.

“People will map themselves onto the piece,“ Soule said, adding ”it’s kind of like a Rorschach thing.“

The liminal space he co-creates on canvas extends to reflect a dynamic and changing present over a festival’s duration, Soule said.

“It’s a commutable space, sometimes a meeting spot for people,” Soule said. There, in front of the canvas, music connects and “there’s a transmittance of psychological energy.”

The gallery’s walls will be lined with previous work by members of the collective, created over the years for the public at various Symbiosis gatherings and Burning Man events.

The exhibit — TOGETHERRR — marks the second exhibit the gallery has had since the Chambers Project opened in November.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com


What: TOGETHERRR exhibit opening

Who: The Furtherrr Collective — Mars-1, Oliver Vernon, Damon Soule, David Choong Lee, and Nome Edonna — and musicians The Gaslamp Killer and A Path Untold

When: Live painting begins 5 p.m. Friday

Where: The Chambers Project, 627 E. Main St., Grass Valley

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